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Release No: 498-96
August 22, 1996


The Department of Defense began eliminating chemical weapons today at Tooele, Utah. Plant operations began at the chemical agent disposal facility after a lengthy period of equipment testing and training of its work force.

Harold P. Smith, the assistant to the secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs emphasized that the goal of these operations is to safely destroy the chemical weapons stockpile, while providing maximum protection to the public, the work force and the environment.

The Tooele facility is the first in the continental United States that is designed solely for the purpose of destroying chemical weapons. A prototype destruction facility at Johnston Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean, has been safely destroying chemical weapons since 1990.

Start of operations at the Tooele chemical agent disposal facility is a major milestone toward completely eliminating our nation's stockpile of chemical weapons, said Gilbert F. Decker, assistant secretary of the Army for research, development and acquisition. When the Tooele facility safely completes its mission, nearly half our nation's chemical weapons will have been destroyed.

Forty-four percent of the nation's stockpile, totaling more than 13,000 agent tons, is stored at Tooele. Both nerve and blister agents are stored in quantities ranging from large bulk containers to mines, rockets and artillery shells.

The U.S. Army, as the executive agent for the Department of Defense, continues to work closely with state officials to protect the interests of the local community regarding the storage and safe destruction of these munitions. Public law requires that the Defense Department destroy the stockpile by 2004. Destruction of the chemical weapons stored at Tooele is expected to be completed by 2003.

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